Mr. Coogans Monday Groove Tube Update 06.14.04

News about the new fall season again already

So, I spend about a week researching and writing Part I, Part II, and Part III of my summary and analysis of the upfront presentations made by the six broadcast networks several weeks ago. Mainly, my mini-series of columns previewed all the new shows discussed at the presentations for ad executives setting rates and television journalists looking to get the biggest scoops.

As important as that week is to the television industry in the area of setting ad rates, with the exception of getting a glimpse of what’s coming in the fall, the event can be pointless for fans of television. The upfronts took place less than three weeks ago and I just finished my analysis last week, but several news reports (mostly related to casting) have already made some of the presentations and subsequent analyses obsolete and old. Unbelievable

Anyway, consider these bits from the new shows debuting in the 2004-05 season:

** Joey Tribbiani? Not compatible with someone? C’mon In the first of many interesting news updates from E! Entertainment Television’s Kimberly Potts, she was one of the first who reported that Ashley Scott (formerly of the WB’s comic book based drama, “Birds of Prey”), the potential love interest for Matt LeBlanc’s character, Joey Tribbiani in Los Angeles, was relieved of her duties and the role will be recast. The report stated 2 reasons for the departure: the fact that Scott’s character revealed she was married and the fact that even if she wasn’t, she had absolutely no chemistry with LeBlanc, therefore leaving the character with very little direction since the show is about Joey (hence the title ). The part will be recast and all scenes with Scott will be scrapped and refilmed.

** John Stamos gets his ABC sitcom after all. Initially passed on by ABC, the network has decided to pick up the John Stamos (“Full House”) led romantic sitcom. The idea of the show is based around Rebecca Romijn’s ex acting as a sly New York publicist with loads of famous clients who is constantly trying to work hard in his career and in his personal life with loads of women rotating in and out of his life. Initially, the show was going to follow Stamos’ character on a single date that was going to unfold through out the whole season. Producers have since changed their mind about that format and now will evolve into a more traditional sitcom. Madchen Amick (“Twin Peaks”), Rick Hoffman (“Philly” and “The Bernie Mac Show”), Bess Meyer (“Brother’s Keeper”) and Ian Gomez (“Felicity”) will also star in the series with Amick reportedly the potential love interest for Stamos’ character.

** Apparently, Sheryl Lee was “Desperate” to get out. Sheryl Lee, formerly Laura Palmer on the cult show favorite, “Twin Peaks,” has abruptly left “Desperate Housewives,” the ABC drama she was set to star in. In the starring role, she was to have played a suburban housewife who takes her life and then almost acts an onlooker and commentator of the friends and family she left behind. According to some accounts, the show appears to be prime time soap opera with an American Beauty type element in the storytelling. The premise seems dark, but interesting also. The part Lee left behind will also be recast and scenes in the pilot in which she appeared will be reshot.

** The WB overhauls their schedule The WB announced that “The Mountain,” a family drama cut in the same mold as “The O.C.” with a little bit of “Everwood” mixed in, would not be aired on Thursday nights at 8:00 (opposite the juggernauts on NBC, CBS, and Fox) as originally designed. The network is going to give the show a slightly better chance to survive by moving it to Wednesday nights at 9:00. “The Moutnain” will essentially trade spots with Jeff Foxworthy’s “Blue Collar TV” and “Drew Carey’s Green Screen Show.” The two comedies will be expected to attract some sort of respectable audience despite the heavy competition. I wish them luck

**“Law & Order: Trial by Jury” loads up. E! Entertainment Television’s Kimberly Potts and TVGuide.com were among the first to announce that sitcom veterans Candace Bergen (“Murphy Brown”) and John Mahoney (“Frasier”) are close to signing agreements to join the cast of the fourth edition of the successful Dick Wolf/NBC crime drama franchise. If the two join Jerry Orbach (reprising his Lenny Briscoe character) on the cast, the show will be even more of a draw for NBC, even besides having the “Law & Order” stamp of approval. That cast could create an interesting dynamic that would be worth tuning into by itself.

“ER” shakeup gets a little nasty at least at first

Dr. Elizabeth Corday, played by Alex Kingston, experienced many up’s and down’s during her days working for Chicago’s County General Hospital on NBC’s “ER.” She experienced the joy of meeting, falling in love with, and marrying Mark Greene (Anthony Edwards). She even experienced the joy of having a beautiful daughter with her colleague/husband. However, she also had to endure Dr. Greene’s death due to a brain tumor, a possible loss of her medical license after a fatal, careless mistake performed during surgery and a grossly unhappy time in her native England trying to work and deal with a cultural change she thought she could re-adjust to easily. Eventually, she picked herself back up and began attempting to have a normal social life again. Though, considering her loosening values when it came to sex, some fans began to saw her as a slut.

While she’s been through a lot over the years, “ER” producers felt that she had been through enough and has decided she is no longer a pivotal character to the show. So, after seven seasons on the show, Kingston’s contract was not renewed for an eighth. Initially, according to TVGuide.com and Zap2it, Kingston gave an interview to British magazine Radio Times and had the following to say about her departure:

Apparently I, according to the producers, the writers, am part of the old fogeys who are no longer interesting. Does it mean that I am the geriatric being pushed out because she is too old?

Of course, this set off a great deal of controversy. Obviously, many people were upset because there already is a gross Hollywood stereotype that women over 40 or 50 have a hard time getting good roles written for them where as men of all ages and younger women seem to get loads of great scripts and roles to choose from. So, there were whispers of some sort of age discrimination taking place on the show and that the show was going to start completely reshaping the cast so it would become younger and sexier, kind of like Linda Cardellini (Nurse Sam), Mekhi Phifer (Dr. Pratt), Parminder Nagra (Neela, the medical student), and Goran Visnjic (Dr. Kovac) who are all under 33 years old.

However, Kingston’s comments are also quite contradictory considering one of “ER’s” most intriguing storylines from last season was Dr. Weaver’s (Laura Innes) relationship with her partner, Sandy (Lisa Vidal), the couple having a baby, and the doctor’s custody battle with Sandy’s family once she died fighting a fire with the Chicago Fire Department. Innes is more than three years older than Kingston and yet her character is just as interesting now than she was when she first joined the cast in 1995, if not moreso. In addition, Maura Tierney (who plays Abby, a nurse that is close to becoming a licensed practicing doctor) is close to 40 herself and even though Tierney appears to be slighter older than Abby, the fact that she’s almost as old as Kingston also leaves the comments to be strange and inconsistent.

So, I was ready to go on some long tirade about women over 40 offering just as much as those who are younger. However, it appears Kingston was gravely mistaken and as soon as the word spread across the U.S. that she made these comments, she quickly released a statement through her publicist stating the following:

I regret if these statements have affected the producers, as we are in mutual agreement that the storyline for my character had run its course,” the statement reads. “… I am grateful for the professional associations and friendships I have made through “ER,” and the incredible opportunities it has afforded me

Like countless other characters on long-running series, storylines run their course over time.

Essentially, it is her belief that what she said in the interview was taken out of context and that it was meant in a “tongue in cheek” manor. The actress is ready to leave “ER” and not put up a fight in the process.

Crisis: averted.

Though, here’s a question, who’s more to blame? The actress for actually making the joking comments in front of a journalist on the record? Or should we blame the journalist who (allegedly) ran the comments without noting they were meant in jest?

Ah, yes the wonders of entertainment journalism

Probably one of the coolest reality show ideas EVER!

How much pull does Mark Burnett have in the entertainment industry right now? According to an interview given to “Access Hollywood’s” Billy Bush the reality guru and television producing God is in the process of creating and scouting for what could be his next reality sensation that may even send “American Idol” on its heels.

The project is called “Rock Star” and will focus explicitly on the rock music genre as opposed to general pop music. The show will be an “American Idol” type talent show/singing contest, but it will also be one, huge, AUDITION. This is because Burnett has worked it out with a major rock act to give out the grand prize. Instead of winning a recording contract, the winner will become the lead singer in the rock group and actually go on a world tour with them. THAT’S how much pull Mark Burnett has in the entertainment industry.

According to Burnett, other than the focusing on the rock genre, the show will differ from “American Idol” in two distinct ways:

First, Burnett feels that “American Idol” doesn’t really allow audiences to really get to know the people outside of what they say and do onstage. So, Burnett is going to have cameras in the backstage area capturing the gamut of emotions (and therefore, the drama) that may exist between the contestants and also what’s going in their heads individually. Imagine if that was the case with “American Idol?” I’m sure we wouldn’t see the schmaltzy love fest we often see on that show. Nonetheless, while that part of the format will be different, Burnett did say the elimination programs (especially, the finals) will loosely follow the “American Idol” format. Hopefully, he’ll do a better job of stretching a five-minute elimination procedure into an hour or ugh two.

Second, instead of letting the audience have all the power in determining who should be eliminated and who should stay in the competition, they will only have a fraction of it. The way the judging will work is each member of the band will have one vote and one music industry “expert” will have the final vote after each episode. When asked why the voting will be so different, Burnett replied “you had so many problems with “American Idol” this year on the voting.” Yikes. Point taken

Will the show survive? Burnett isn’t really worried about this show and “American Idol” cannibalizing each other’s audience because as he told Billy Bush:

I feel that there’s room on TV for more than one great big talent show. And I feel that rock music has been totally left out of that mix.

He has a fair point. Though, if it’s aired concurrently with “American Idol” instead of during the summer or fall, he likely won’t see as big of an audience as it could see. Part of why “American Idol” does so well in the ratings is that it appeals to people of all ages. Other than Simon’s verbal venom and the occasional heavy insult from Randy, the show is remarkably squeaky clean. Therefore, parents and their kids all watch the show together despite the fact parents may not like the music as much. Then again, considering the show is produced to appeal to adults and kids world wide, that isn’t necessarily a huge issue. There hasn’t been an element of popular culture this universal since Perry Como recorded albums. Throw in the interactive element to it and the fact that fans don’t have to leave to house to vote and it makes the show a pop culture phenomenon.

While rock music is immensely popular in this country, the truth is if Burnett limits his show to that genre, he’ll automatically lose at least part of the audience that tunes into “American Idol.” He may gain a certain share of “rockers” who don’t associate themselves with the pop fluff that is the Fox juggernaut, but it may not be a significant enough to affect the ratings greatly. It will also depend on the group looking for a lead singer. Burnett promises that it is “a big act” but won’t specify which one as of now. If it is a group with wide appeal, that could solve a lot of the potential viewership problems.

Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing the rock genre have their own tacky singing contest. I’m just not expecting 30 million people to join me.

NBC cancels “Average Joe.” Well sort of anyway

The idea is the same, NBC has just chosen to reverse the way this dating game is played. Starting with the new season in September, NBC won’t be airing “Average Joe” anymore, but instead going with the “Average Jane” concept. Presumably, that means the concept will be one prototypical, handsome, made-for-TV hunk choosing from a group of women that um won’t exactly be confused with the cast of “America’s Next Top Model.”

The NBC Web site posted the following statements in order to classify exactly what they’re looking for in the people that appear on the show:

LADIES! If you and your friends are tired of flipping through magazines plastered with Size-Zero girls that have little to offer, then this is your chance to show that you’re what men REALLY want. We’re looking for REAL women! If you’re charming, witty, intelligent and want the men of America to finally open their eyes and see what they’ve been missing-then we want to meet you

GENTLEMEN! We’re looking for the guy that all the girls want, but no one can catch. He’s handsome, intelligent, successful and ready to meet a woman who has something to offer other than plastic good looks. If this is you, or if this is someone you know, please click the link below and follow the directions to audition.

So, it’s pretty obvious that the network is kind and understanding about the plight of women who don’t look like Tyra Banks or Julia Roberts and they seek to help. However, not two inches down the page, they also state they want a smart, ridiculously attractive guy who’s essentially looking for a girl with a “great personality” despite what kind of women they recruit to be on the show. Seems a little hypocritical, doesn’t it?

Nonetheless, “Average Joe” producers found some pretty goofy looking schlubs for their show. It will be interesting to see what they will view an “Average Jane” to be. After all, as a whole, women are better looking then men. Don’t you think?

I know 411’s Matthew Michaels will be excited about this one

I chat frequently with 411music’s Matthew Michaels often about all sorts of topics (when he’s not cramming wrestling down my throat ). He kept telling me that after watching a lot of television in April and May that he wasn’t going to watch much more this summer unless “The Joe Schmo Show” made its reappearance on the Spike Channel. Well, Matthew, your dream has come true, as this Tuesday, June 15th, “The Joe Schmo Show” will be back in full effect not only with a “Joe Schmo” but a “Jane Schmo” as well.

However, for the show to work a second time (and with the extra person), the premise would have to be much different. It appears the producers have delivered. According to an article from Zap2it, the production staff wanted to get away from the “Big Brother” knock off known as “Lap of Luxury” they went with in Season One, instead focusing on the dating shows made popular by “The Bachelor” and “Joe Millionaire.” The show within the show is called “Last Chance for Love” and will feature a bachelor and bachelorette each seeking a mate with a $100,000 prize also being involved. As of now, very little about the joke victims/”contestants” are being released except to say that their names are Tim Walsh and Ingrid Wiese and are from the Washington, D.C. area.

The show will again feature a series of actors playing the prototypical reality show parts including the including “the Bitch, the Stalker, the Player and the Drunk.” Though, they will all be different actors. The only returning cast member is Ralph Garman, the host of the first “Joe Schmo.” However, he will only be back in disguise, dressed up as a smarmy British fellow named Derek Newcastle. The other new cast member will be a “falcon” named Montecore, who delivers news of twists and turns in “Last Chance for Love.” In actuality, Montecore is a hawk named Ace, who’s previously been seen fetching beer in a short lived series of Bud Light commercials.

As one might expect, casting a second season of this show was extremely difficult and something I had thought would be close to impossible. Executive Producer David Stanley, who also is one of the heads of Stone Stanley Entertainment, didn’t go as far as to say impossible, but they certainly said it wasn’t easy. In talking about the show, Stanley discussed how hard it would be.

There’s now a genre called hoax shows [which] makes going out into the marketplace infinitely harder. We had to work extra hard to figure out how to go do it.

Stanley also talked about how difficult it was to cast the actors to play the parts they were looking for:

doing that the first time was hard enough. Doing it a second time, without letting everybody know what we were doing and what the show was, was almost impossible.

The question is: “Is it worth going through all of the hassle again?” Could producers capture the magic from Matt Gould and Season One? I’ve gotten into arguments about this with other 411mania staffers (OK…Just Eric S. really) and he continued to say that the reason why the first “Joe Schmo” succeeded was primarily because of Matt and the lovable, wonderful personality he displayed during his time on the show. Initially, I largely disagreed with that sentiment basically saying the people are important, but the premise is probably most vital to the success of the show. While I still believe people love the “hoax” show genre (under the reality TV umbrella), I’ve changed my tune a little bit and realized how much the personalities matter in creating shows like this, especially when they’ve been done before. The same way scripted shows rely on characters that viewers love or love to hate, reality shows need one of the two, if not both as well. I think that since this hoax show has been done before, people already know what to expect from it. Therefore, it’s going to be even more crucial than in Season One for the producers to make sure that Tim and Ingrid are either very likable or such assholes, that viewers are going to love seeing the joke played out on them. If they fail in either sense, producers can’t rely on the premise to salvage the show.

I have a feeling the “Joe Schmo” producers and Spike TV will be following the ratings and the reviews of this show very carefully

I, Steve suggest that you watch “I, Max.”

If you’re a fan of ESPN’s “Around the Horn” and “Pardon the Interruption” (PTI), and you’re a fan of the recently departed Max Kellerman from the all sports network, then you’ll be happy to see him nestling into a nice spot on Fox Sports. Kellerman departed from ESPN several months ago after his contract ran out and it wasn’t renegotiated. Fox Sports is still trying to tread water and become a potential bigger rival to ESPN, so in its journey to do so, they quickly signed the New York born Kellerman to not only anchor its boxing coverage and analysis but host a show similar in style to what he did on “Around the Horn.”

“I, Max” has a fairly simple complex that’s designed in the same vein as its counterparts on ESPN. Kellerman sits in a NewYork City studio and not only moderates the show, but acts as a competitor as he “takes on the world” arguing one side of issues surrounding the biggest sports stories of the day. The New York born boxing guru apparently has some infinitely loyal friends. First, he got Michael Holley to quit his job as a high profile sports columnist at The Boston Globe (the second time in three years he’s left the newspaper ) and represent “the world” in the arguments that were set up ahead of time. In addition, Kellerman got Bill “Disembodied Voice” Wolff to leave ESPN altogether and join him on his show as a producer and on-air personality. His role on the show is to act as the judge in the arguments the host has with Holley or “The World.” The arguments are based on a boxing style scoring system.

Here’s the best part: If Kellerman wins the most arguments in a show, then Wolff will read several glowing emails feeding the already inflated ego of the host. Even better, if he loses the most arguments, then Wolff has a pile of nasty emails insulting everything from the host’s opinions on certain topics to his hair and outfit of the day to his ability to host a sports show period (i.e. he shouldn’t be hosting the show to begin with). The only drawback to this part of the show is that Kellerman’s opinion of himself is so grossly exaggerated, he’s able to let the insults roll of his back, where as most other people would at least appear to be slightly offended.

Essentially, it’s another fun show that looks at the latest sports headlines in an irreverent way with a series of sports newspaper columnists trying to establish careers as television talking heads. If you like that type of show, the timeslot is pretty ideal as well since it comes on at 6:00 PM EST (in New York), right after “Around the Horn” and “PTI.” The only problem is the show conflicts directly with the Dan Patrick-led 6:00 “SportsCenter” on ESPN and the probability is that people already watching “The Worldwide Leader” will continue to do for the “hard news” (if that exists in sports) and leave behind the cheeky talk radio style of sports coverage.

Then again, “SportsCenter” will be taped again in the 11:00 PM hour and updated again for a 2:00 AM airing as well. So, instead of watching the most popular show in sports that will be on again later in the day, why not try out another fun show on another network? That’s likely a tough sell for any sports fan used to ESPN, especially since Kellerman is obnoxious, over-the-top, and sporting an annoying, well-trimmed beard that makes him look like one of The Backstreet Boys.

The bottom line is even though Max Kellerman IS a schmuck, it wasn’t until he left “Around the Horn” in the hands of the overmatched “PTI” “Stat Boy” Tony Reali, and even more recently, “Dream Job” castoff, Zach Selwyn, that I realized Kellerman had a strong enough personality and enough talent to carry his own show and do it pretty well. If you’re tired of 13 hours per day of “SportsCenter” and you like the loud, brazen, argumentative side of sports that often rears its ugly head, then “I, Max” is for you. If not, “SportsCenter” is probably on again right now

Enjoy the show!

— Coogan